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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Public access to Congressionally mandated reports one step closer to reality!

Congress passed the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA) as part of the 2023 defense authorization bill — and many including FGI cheered!

This week, the collection of these important reports came one step closer to reality as the White House Office of Management and Budget released detailed guidance for agencies to implement the ACMRA starting in October, 2023. The Federal News Network has more context. In a nutshell, “starting on Oct.16, anytime an agency is drafting a legally-required report to Congress, they’ll also need to prepare to send it to the Government Publishing Office to be hosted in a new publicly-accessible web portal GPO is building.” GPO has also announced its work on this important project for government transparency. This will also be a boon to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) as thousands of Congressionally mandated reports make their way into depository library catalogs and collections.

My great hope is that this will be a template going forward for how executive agencies can work with GPO to bring their publications and data into the National Collection of U.S. Government Public Information where it can be collected, described, preserved and given broad public access via the internet and through the federal depository library network.

Yay! Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act included in 2023 NDAA

This week the Senate passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which President Biden is expected to sign.

This year’s $858 BILLION bill is truly an omnibus bill as it provides a 4.6 percent pay increase for service members, increases the maximum allowable income to receive the Basic Needs Allowance, and adds funding to Basic Allowance for Housing. It addresses climate change and bolsters energy resiliency across the Department of Defense, gives new investments in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and offers new support for survivors of sexual assault in the military by further expanding reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

But most relevant for government information and for us here at FGI — who have been following and advocating for this for over 10 years! — the package includes the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, (the text starts on p. 3125 of this huge PDF).

The bill will require the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to create an online database for free public access to reports that agencies are required to submit to Congress, and requires agencies to provide copies of those reports to GPO for that purpose. GPO is directed to establish the database within one year, reusing existing systems to the extent possible. We assume these will live on govinfo.gov. This bill will go a long way toward solving (or at least relieving) the unreported documents issue that we have also been tracking on for many years. Executive branch reports are a particularly egregious problem as almost none of them make it into the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) or are distributed to FDLP libraries.

This is an amazing early holiday present for the FDLP and for everyone who has been working these 10+ years to make this a reality!

Reps Quigley and Comer re-introduce Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA)

Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and James Comer (KY-01) re-introduced the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA) to create a single website on which Congress and the public can easily search, sort, and download all executive agency congressional reports. Quigley has introduced this bill every Congressional session since 2011. In the last session of Congress, the bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously, but stalled in the Senate.

The ACMRA will be a boon to the American public and will add thousands of difficult-to-find executive agency reports to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and the “National Collection.” Take a look at the list of reports required to be submitted to Congress. This list is published at the beginning of each Congressional session as a House Document entitled “Reports to be made to Congress.”

Contact your Representatives and Senators to make sure we get H.R. 2485 over the finish line this time!

“As founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Transparency Caucus, I am proud to re-introduce this hallmark transparency bill that I have introduced every Congress since 2011,” said Quigley. “This bill will increase government transparency by providing the public easily-accessible information on how agencies are accomplishing their policy goals. By consolidating this information in one location, my hope is that it will improve the institutional and technological capacity of the legislative branch and rebuild the public’s trust in our government. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation in the House again this Congress.”

“Good governance requires the American people have full, transparent access to information about their government. Congress receives thousands of reports annually from federal agencies about how they are fulfilling their missions, but there isn’t a spot to find all of them in one place. The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act provides Americans easy access to these reports by requiring all federal agency congressional reports be housed in one accessible location. If these reports can’t be easily found, the reports don’t serve their purpose. The American people need the information contained in these reports to be accessible so we can see and understand how the federal government is using their taxpayer dollars. The House and Senate must take up this commonsense legislation,” said Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member Comer.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) releases report on Congressionally Mandated Reports

Wow, the FirstBranchForecast was on fire this week (as it is most weeks!), announcing a new bill to protect Inspectors General, talking about the just-released FOIA Advisory Committee’s draft report available for public comment (submit yours via email to foia-advisory-committee@nara.gov through June 2), and also highlighting a new CRS report Congressionally Mandated Reports: Overview and Considerations for Congress that contextualizes the issues surrounding H.R.736 – Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act. This bill, if passed, would require the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to establish and maintain a publicly available online portal containing copies of all congressionally mandated reports — 3500-4000 of them, many of them listed in House Document 116-4 Reports to be made to Congress (this is a document published annually by the Clerk of the House!). This would be a boon to the FDLP as it would fill many of the fugitive gaps in the national collection.

Thanks as always FirstBranchForecast!

Congressionally Mandated Reports was the topic of a new CRS report “on the potential benefits and challenges of reporting requirements,” which also “analyzes a number of statutory reporting requirements enacted during the 115th Congress.” The report also mentions legislation that would improve congressional access to mandated reports, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, which has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, saying (as part of a longer analysis): “Establishing a centralized, public repository for congressionally mandated reports may address a number of concerns related to the reporting process.”

via Forecast for May 26, 2020 – First Branch Forecast.

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